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Eastern Health launches Steamplicity for better hospital food

Chef Tim Hills serves several of the dishes he prepared for the Steamplicity food delivery service for acute care hospitals announcement Thursday.
Chef Tim Hills serves several of the dishes he prepared for the Steamplicity food delivery service for acute care hospitals announcement Thursday. - Joe Gibbons

Delivery model to enhance patient experience, cut costs

The quality of hospital food has been one of those jokes that have stood for decades.

In an attempt to eliminate that fodder and improve the already difficult times people in health care facilities experience, Eastern Health has partnered with Morrison Healthcare — a member of Compass Group Canada — on a new food delivery service for acute care hospitals.

Steamplicity will be introduced at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital on March 7. Other facilities that will switch to the new food delivery service in the coming weeks include the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre on March 21, the Waterford Hospital on April 4, and the Health Sciences Centre and the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre on April 11.

“Steamplicity represents an innovative change in Eastern Health’s food delivery model,” said David Diamond, president and CEO of Eastern Health.

“Guided by a commitment to excellence in health care, Steamplicity is about providing our patients with higher-quality, balanced and nutritious meals.”

The total capital cost to implement Steamplicity at Eastern Health is $5.5 million. The system will cost approximately $630,000 annually for ongoing costs such as lease payments and software licences.
In return, Steamplicity will eliminate waste in the system and enhance the overall quality of service provided to patients, clients and residents, saving the organization an estimated $2 million annually on food service costs.

“We will deliver better-quality, more-balanced meals to our patients,’’ Diamond said.
“As a patient in one of our facilities, you will have the opportunity to have a restaurant-style experience, so you will be able to choose from a menu the food that works for you on that given day. Prior to mealtime, a food service associate will visit each patient to take their order and the trays will be assembled based on the individual requests in pantry areas on the unit,” he added.
The food preparation facilities that will be employed for this program have been updated over the past year. The hospital sites have been renovated and new pantries have been added that will accommodate the Steamplicity system.

Due to this streamlining, the current facility on Pippy Place will close and, by working with the union, full-time employees have been retrained or reassigned to be part of the new system.
Diamond said there are fewer opportunities for temporary workers, who likely will be displaced.

A new cuisine centre has been opened at 3 Beclin Drive in Mount Pearl to prepare and package the meals that will be served in these four Eastern Health facilities.
The cost of feeding a patient is between $5-6 per plate.

Served in specially designed plastic trays, and in keeping with everyone’s environmental consciousness, Eastern Health has worked out a deal with Evergreen Recycling to dispose of plates.

Maarten Galesloot, president of health care and senior services, Compass Group Canada, responded that the process being used is not microwave cooking, but rather re-heating.

“The only thing is, the microwave is just the technology we use to heat it up and get the steam going. It’s really the way we package,” Galesloot said.
“The real secret is in the valve, the little valve that we put in there. That technology gives us the capabilities to keep the (food) very fresh, very nutritious. Traditionally, if you remember you have hospital food, for example you have salmon and rice, it gets together and makes the flavour. This (process) keeps them completely separate. It’s the valve and the packaging that makes the difference.”

Steamplicity uses a unique technology that cooks fresh food under steam pressure to perfection in minutes, locking in all the flavour and nutrients.

The technology of the packaging system and the valve control release steam during cooking and are key components in consistently delivering high-quality meals.

Those who attended the conference were treated to chef Tim Hills’ offerings of the types of plates patients will get on a daily basis. Those meals included everything from pot roast, mac and cheese, turkey breast and cod.
Following the taste test, a tour of the facility was conducted by site manager Lorilee Pumphrey.

Some quick facts about Steamplicity and Eastern Health partnership:

• Food has a shelf life of six days.

• Eastern Health is looking at developing foods that are native to this province.
• Local adaptations happen in all areas of the country, and Indigenous groups and their needs are being explored to make an adaptation for them.

• The menu is adaptable to certain food needs. If patients have identifiable issues such as a gluten-free diet, substitutions can be made.

• Some of the product is cooked here and others are brought in from manufacturers.

• The contract with Compass Group Canada runs through 2020.

• There are separate menus for adults and children at the Janeway.

• Steamplicity achieves a total annual saving of approximately $16,000-$20,000 in utility costs based on a 400-bed hospital.

• Steamplicity decreases the number of untouched trays by about 84 per cent.

• Patient satisfaction in facilities that use Steamplicity nationwide is about 90 per cent.

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